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U.S. Open Tennis, NFL matchups spark ratings

HOLLYWOOD — Marquee matchups on the tennis court and gridiron produced strong ratings over the weekend as the fall sports season kicks into high gear.

An all-American men’s final of the U.S. Open Tennis Championship and an opening week NFL matchup featuring the winners of three of the past five Super Bowls dominated Sunday, while an early-season college football showdown in Florida scored big on Saturday.

According to Nielsen overnights, CBS Sports’ coverage of Sunday’s Pete Sampras/Andre Agassi tennis match (4:45-8 p.m. ET) delivered a strong 7.9 rating/15 share — up 44% from last year’s men’s final (5.5/11). Match, won by Sampras in four sets, did a 12.3/24 in host city New York.

The boffo tennis rating is even more impressive since the match aired opposite Fox’s attractive NFL showcase contest between the St. Louis Rams and Denver Broncos (4:45-7:15 p.m. ET). Game, won by the Broncos, grabbed a huge 15.3/30 in local overnights, including nearly identical scores in the hometowns of football-crazy St. Louis (34.1/59) and Denver (34.0/60).

Compared with its late national game of a year ago, Fox was up 9%.

Regional action off

Regional NFL action earlier in the day on both Fox and CBS didn’t fare quite as well, as the nets were off 10% and 5% respectively vs. a year ago. All told, the three NFL games on Fox and CBS combined for 33.9 ratings points in the overnights, down slightly from last year’s 34.2.

The pregame shows for both nets were also off slightly vs. last year.

On Saturday, CBS scored big with its Miami-Florida college football matchup (5-9 p.m. ET), which delivered a 6.0/13 — the highest rating for a college game this fall. That led into the women’s final of the U.S. Open (Serena Williams defeating sister Venus), which notched a strong 7.2/13 in overnights, off 5% from last year’s record-setting 7.7/14.

NBC also did well Saturday (1-4:45 p.m. ET) with its first Notre Dame college football game of the season. The Irish’s victory over Purdue produced a 3.4/8 in overnights, a 17% improvement over last year’s comparable game against Michigan State.

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